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Blueprint for Success

July 04, 2012 By Courtesy of Saint Paul College

In a challenging job market, education is often billed as the job seeker’s ticket to employability: Saint Paul College graduate Chiharu Miller would be the first to agree.

Miller’s story begins in 2008, when she had just graduated from a four-year college with a degree in interior design. “The economy was tough and I wasn’t able to find a full-time job,” says Miller. “I always thought it would be great to learn how to make cabinets or furniture, so I enrolled in the Saint Paul College cabinetmaking program.”

“In interior design, there is often a disconnect between the trades people and the designers,” she said. “By learning both sets of skills I hoped to help bridge that communication barrier.”

Miller quickly became a stand-out student, impressing her instructors with her leadership ability, attention to detail and knack for navigating the male-dominated field of cabinetmaking. She served as Secretary in SkillsUSA – an on-campus organization that brings together students, educators and the trade industry – and won several awards at the SkillsUSA annual state conference.

A Successful Job Search

Just a few months away from graduating, Miller once again resumed her job hunt. An instructor had mentioned Twin Cities Closet Company as a possible employer because of its strong relationship with Saint Paul College and preference for hiring Saint Paul College graduates. “One day after class I stopped by to drop off my resume and I ended up talking with the owners,” says Miller.

The owners were impressed with Miller’s unique set of qualifications and immediately set up a meeting, then quickly offered her a position with the company in design, sales and programming. “Hiring Chiharu was a game changer for us because of her diverse qualifications,” says Twin Cities Closet Company President Jim Myers. “We knew with her background she was more than shop personnel, but she was also more than an interior designer.”

As she predicted one year before, Miller became the liaison who could overcome the barrier between designers and tradespeople. “Chiharu is proficient in the software our designers use to design the cabinetry and the software the shop employees use to make the cabinetry,” says Myers. “And if she needed too, she is fully capable of going back into the shop and building the cabinets she designs herself.” For Miller, finding a job immediately after graduation where her skill set is both valued and well-utilized is extremely rewarding. “It feels good,” she says. “It really proves that my Saint Paul College education was the right decision—it has really paid off.”

Ticket to Employability

Miller’s success in the job market was about more than luck–her different but complementary degrees gave her a unique, hard-to-find skill set that was in-demand among employers. It’s a strategy Miller now recommends to other job seekers, encouraging them to think about how they can add to their current capabilities. “As an interior designer, I wanted to learn more about how things are made,” she says. “I also saw that with design-build projects becoming more common, there would be a demand for people who knew about both designing and building.”

Employers like Myers also tout the benefits of additional education. “In today’s economy having a diverse set of skills is essential,” he says. “Employers are looking for an employee who can do many different things – the communication, the project management, the computer skills and the software knowledge are all important – being cross-trained is everything.”

To get the cross-training needed in today’s economy, Miller says Saint Paul College is the right choice. “The trade programs, faculty, facilities and activities are all excellent. I have such a great career opportunity now because of Saint Paul College. I’m very happy I went back.”

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2012 edition of St. Paul College, the community and technical college's magazine for alumni and friends.

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